We are taking a look at the story of one of our favourite songs. Now, you might be forgiven for thinking Fleetwood Mac’s incredibly emotive and powerful song ‘Landslide’ was about a lover. Let’s face it, that’s what most of Fleetwood Mac’s songs are about, inter-band relationship or otherwise. That said, the song’s composer, Stevie Nicks, says the song is not an ode to a lover but a declaration of her intent for musical success and her pursuit of it.
The track features on the band’s self-titled 1975 album which, along with Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham’s introduction, looked to truly kick start the success of Fleetwood Mac into the rock-pop behemoths they are to this day. This beautifully rich and luxurious song is one of the mainstays of that success. It stands among the most performed Fleetwood Mac songs and is a pivotal moment of their live show. Without trying to overdo it, it’s a timeless piece of music that will likely outlive us all.
The song’s emotive language and Nicks’ undeniably pure and vulnerable vocal, which always lends its tone to love, allow the mind to wander towards this track as a love song but, in truth, the track is located in more vocational areas of the soul. Nicks wrote the song while staying in Colorado, Aspen and while the focus of the track can feel like a lost lover, Nicks is actually pining for a career she thinks may truly be out of her reach for good.
The scene sees Nicks and Buckingham having just had their record, Buckingham & Nicks, dropped by the Polydor label and the singer was contemplating the prospect of returning to either full-time work or school. Neither of which posed much of a dream come true for the singer who had, in some small doses at least, seen the shining lights of fame and fortune.
In a 2013 interview with Performing Songwriter, Nicks shared the whole tale, and let’s face it, she’ll say it better than we ever could. “It was written in 1973 at a point where Lindsey [Buckingham] and I had driven to Aspen for him to rehearse for two weeks with Don Everly. Lindsey was going to take Phil’s place. So they rehearsed and left, and I made a choice to stay in Aspen.”
She continued: “I figured I’d stay there and one of my girlfriends was there. We stayed there for almost three months while Lindsey was on the road, and this is right after the Buckingham Nicks record had been dropped. And it was horrifying to Lindsey and I because we had a taste of the big time, we recorded in a big studio, we met famous people, we made what we consider to be a brilliant record and nobody liked it (laughs).”
Adding: “I had been a waitress and a cleaning lady, and I didn’t mind any of this. I was perfectly delighted to work and support us so that Lindsey could produce and work and fix our songs and make our music. But I had gotten to a point where it was like, “I’m not happy. I am tired. But I don’t know if we can do any better than this. If nobody likes this, then what are we going to do?”
It was a tough time for Nicks and suggests that she was nearing her limit, “So during that two months I made a decision to continue. ‘Landslide’ was the decision. [Sings] ‘When you see my reflection in the snow-covered hills’—it’s the only time in my life that I’ve lived in the snow. But looking up at those Rocky Mountains and going, ‘Okay, we can do it. I’m sure we can do it.'” It was something she even put to paper too, “In one of my journal entries, it says, ‘I took Lindsey and said, We’re going to the top!’ And that’s what we did. Within a year, Mick Fleetwood called us, and we were in Fleetwood Mac making $800 a week apiece (laughs). Washing $100 bills through the laundry. It was hysterical. It was like we were rich overnight.”
The track is so ubiquitous with Nicks’ impressive and yet touchingly subtle vocal that it feels inextricable from her and her romantic past that it can feel too easily placed within the “love song” arena. The truth is that it most likely is a love song, but not as we would hope to define it.
This is an ode to Nicks’ only one true love; music.